Different items were used as a means of exchange during the pre-colonial era. These items included beads, bottles, cowries, salt and many others.
The shilling and the Pence was the first major currency issue in Nigeria. It was introduced as a result of colonial ordinance of 1880. The shilling and the pence were introduced as the legal tender in the British West Africa. The bank of England managed the units of coin which were 1/10 penny, one shilling, and 1/2 penny. These were distributed till 1912 by the Bank of British West Africa.
The first sets of banknotes were introduced by the West Africa Board (WACB) from 1912 to 1959. Apart from that, they also introduced coins in Ghana, Nigeria, Gambia, and Sierra Leone. Then, the highest banknote was pound and the highest coin denomination was one shilling.
The Central Bank of Nigeria issued a currency note on the 1st of July 1959. Consequently, the coins and banknotes issued by WACB were withdrawn. The currency was changed in the year 1962 to reflect the republican status of the country. The notes which had the inscription of “federation of Nigerian” was changed to “federal Republic of Nigeria”. These banknotes were changed in 1968 because they were misused during the civil war.
The name of Nigeria currency was changed in January, 1977 because of government’s decision to change from metric to decimal. Then, the major unit of currency which used to be £ 1 stopped existing. While the one Naira became a major unit, and minor unit was called kobo. One hundred kobo is equivalent one Naira.
The banknote with value of N20 was introduced on 11th February 1977. It was the highest denomination then. The banknote was the first to bear the image of renown citizen of Nigeria, General Muritala Muhammed. The note was released on the first anniversary of his assassination.
On 2nd July, 1979, banknotes of three denominations were released. These banknotes are N1, N5, and N10. The notes have the image of three prominent Nigerians that were declared national heroes on the first of October 1978.
The colors of all the banknotes were changed except the 50 kobo banknote in April 1984. This is done to stop the prevalence of currency trafficking at that time. N1 note and the 50kobo note were coined in 1991.
The N100, N200, N500, and N1000 were introduced respectively in December 1999, November 2000, April 2001 and October 2005.
On 28th February, 2007, the N20 was issued for the first time in polymer in line to economic reforms while N5, N10, N50 were given a new design. The N1 and 50kobo coins were not left out. The N2 coin was also introduced.
The redesigned N10, N50, and N5 notes were converted to polymer on 30th September 2009. This was done following the successful performance of the earlier converted N20 note.
Finally, the CBN issued the N50 commemorative and the N100 commemorative banknote on the 29th September, 2010 and 19th December 2014 respective. This was done as part of CBN’s contribution towards the celebration of Nigeria’s 50th year independence and 100 years of existence as a nation.